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Good Eats In Watertown/Cambridge Area?

  • j

Hi, I am new to CHOWHOUND (but not to eating/drinking) and I just moved to Cambridge, on the Watertown -Belmont Line. I am looking for some real gems, pizza, good ethnic food, hidden gems etc.

I have already discovered Armando's and Formaggio's. What else is there?

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  1. Well, there are endless recs if you search this board, but a few of my favorites are:

    Stella's Pizza on Mt. Auburn (get the 18" and as for it cooked well done. Nice, thin and crispy!)
    Shangri-La in Belmont for Chinese
    Sevan bakery on Mt. Auburn - best MidEastern bakery and prepared foods.

    1. Not a whole lot on that side of town (I used to live there) though some chow-worthy dishes at a number of places that aren't necessarily full-on chow destinations.

      Deluxe Town Diner in Watertown is popular, and for good reason. I've been underwhelmed with egg dishes, but have really enjoyed salads, pancakes, sandwiches (including a nice felafel sandwich). Just up the street, Arax market is fantastic for stocking up on Middle Eastern supplies and some prepared foods. Great for when you're throwing a party and don't have time to cook.

      I've not been to Shangri La, which someone will surely chime in about it. It's been on my to-do list for a while.

      I don't rate some of the other places in Huron Village (near Formaggio and Armando's) though others will. I find Hi Rise very overrated for sandwiches, but do like their brown bread a lot, some cookies are pretty good. Service always irks me. Full Moon is a VERY kid-friendly restaurant on Huron, I think their food is solid. Great breakfasts, you can get a beer or mimosa, and they have a small adults-only section. Dinner items can be quite good, too. House fried chips for the nachos, a great mediterranean plate, excellent cod cakes. I'd skip Village Kitchen and Ortanique, personally. If you haven't discovered it already, Formaggio Kitchen has an outdoor BBQ on Saturdays - great food. The pulled pork on ciabatta is my favorite.

      On Mass Ave near the Arlington line is Qingdao. They deliver to the Huron Village area of Cambridge. You will want to know this asap. Search the board and you'll find menu suggestions. Right nearby is Greek Corner - good for takeout on the way home when you don't feel like cooking. Nothing mind-blowing, but I've always liked their gyros (I am NO expert, but I find them tasty) and the salads are fine. Lemon soup is quite nice.

      Living in that neighborhood, I also frequented the restaurants right at Mass Ave and Shepard Street: Chez Henri for cuban sandwiches (good for takeout), Cambridge Common for nicer pub fare (and good service), and the Forest Cafe for tex/mex (you need to order right , some dishes are winners (ejotes, many of the specials, soups), some can be disappointing.) It's a nice mix of locals and transplants there.

      1. Strip T's at 93 School St., near Arsenal intersec is a homey little storefront popular with us locals for nightly specials(lots of fish), homemade desserts & friendly staff: http://www.stripts.com/. Jasmine, Mt. Auburn & Lloyd Rd, for Persian eats across the street from Sevan Bakery and Arax Market.

        1. Shangri-La, a Taiwanese restaurant just across the Belmont line, is superb. Around that area there are four Armenian shops with delicious food: Massis, Arax, Sevan, and Eastern Lamejun.

          5 Replies
          1. re: aventinus

            Just an aside regarding Massis....we decided to by a few baked goods from them a couple of weeks ago instead of our usual store, Sevan. Big disappointment! I used to get alot of things from them, but the pastries have really gone downhill. A baklava tasted like margarine, unlike the buttery taste I've come to expect from Sevan. Mamoul were likewise lackluster. Any else experience this?

            1. re: Science Chick

              I stick with Sevan for bakery stuff and only go to Massis for bulk items. Massis is bigger and so has a wider variety of dry goods, oils, canned goods, etc.

              1. re: lbjay

                Yeah, but I think even Arax is better for that stuff......what a shame!

              2. re: Science Chick

                According to my Armenian neighbor, "Massis -- no good!"

                1. re: Pia

                  Decided on Massis because I had had their lacmajun (sorry for the spelling). Not bad. But the almonds were rancid and the rice pudding was the worst I have ever had. Will have to try the other two.

            2. I would add to these rec's:

              Uncommon Grounds on Mt. Auburn in Watertown for a decent, generous breakfast. The bacon and provolone scrambled eggs are quite tasty.

              I second the suggestions for Shangri-la in Belmont. The spicy fish fillet with tofu is super. See the review just posted by Alcachofa.

              Basta Pasta on Western Ave. in Cambridge is terrific, despite the pizza parlor atmosphere. Homemade fusilli, great meatballs, decent chicken piccata. Everything is made in the restaurant, and the prices are very reasonable.

              Cafe Barada on Mass. Ave. outside of Porter heading toward Arlington. Simple and tasty food, and wonderful people who run it.

              Just up the street, Addis Red Sea just opened a second location. I haven't tried the new location, but they have solid Ethiopian, and there are several posts on this board.

              I've had mixed experiences with Maria Bonita on Mass. Ave. in Cambridge. Burritos have sometimes been decent, sometimes bland and chewy meat. Decent chiles rellenos, though.

              Although not in Cambridge or Watertown, Angelina's in Teele Sq., Somerville, is close by and has very good, solid subs, including the steak and cheese. I've not had their pizza, but it's gotten decent reviews in the past.

              Another decent choice close to Watertown is Andros Diner in Waverly Sq., Belmont.
              Decent Greek food, and great prices.

              Happy eating!

              1. I'll second UnCommon Grounds on Mt Auburn Street, and make sure you check out The Select Cafe at the corner of School Street and Belmont Street.

                1. Fried clams at Celebrity Ice cream in Watertown have been tasty the couple times I've tried them.

                  Another good Watertown neighborhood spot close to you is Donahue's. It's a real "neighborhood" bar. Seems like everyone knows everyone from highs school or something. Lots of flat screens for the games good beer specials during games. Food is pretty standard pub fare but priced appropriately for a nice change. I like the nachos myself. Simple cheap egg/bacon/toast breakfast and decent burgers as well. The kind of place that you need to be in the right mood for. I think it's a gem b/c the girls show up for early games in sweatpants. Always a good sign when the ladies watching the games are more into the sport than the fashion. ;)

                  1. Casa de Pedro is in Watertown - just moved from watertown square to new location. Anyone try it yet?

                    Shangri-La is a don't miss.
                    Andros Diner is good, cheap greek diner food.
                    Olins bakery in cushing square belmont for delectable donuts
                    Kashish in Belmont Center for elegant Indian
                    Stone Hearth Pizza, Belmont Center. for expensive but strangely compelling salads and thin crust pizza.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: tdaaa

                      I posted on Casa de Pedro in their new digs a while back. Beautiful surroundings, but kinda "eh" on the food and service


                      1. re: Science Chick

                        I have been to Casa twice... the food is "eh" nice variety... interesting ingredients.....but the tapas "staple" dishes like the garlic shrimp and paella was bland.... expensive for bland food.... the live music is very nice though....

                    2. What about Molana on Spring St.? It's been awhile since I've been (approaching one year) but I remember liking it quite a bit. The kepabs there were tasty as well many of their apps.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Chrispy75

                        Several recent visits to molana have all been great. The chicken with orange (forget the real name) is particularly noteworthy. The only sour note - no humous on a recent saturday night visit.

                      2. Welcome to our neighborhood! This is such a great place to live b/c you're not far from lots of good eats.

                        For Middle-Eastern:

                        Eastern Lamejun for lamejun - I find them to be much fresher and tastier than at Sevan
                        Sevan for everything else - my 4-year-old will not eat any other hummus


                        Shangri-La is fantastic
                        Qingdao is too, just different - the dumplings are TDF
                        Super 88 in Allston is not far - go up Market St. in Brighton and get there the back way
                        Patou Thai in Belmont Ctr. is actually very good
                        I don't like Kashish in Belmont Ctr. for Indian - would rather travel to Allston to Rangoli or to Harvard Sq. to Tamarind Bay


                        I can't stand Olin's for these or anything else - Linda's doughnuts on Belmont St. rocks
                        Vicki Lee's in Cushing Sq. (on Trapelo) in Belmont has good scones but lots of attitude
                        For traditional bakery cakes we go to Lyndell's in Somerville


                        We are regulars at Victor's on North Beacon in Watertown - lots of food, good prices and friendly service. Not gourmet in any way but solid dinery food. Deluxe Town Diner, IMO, is over-rated and pricey.


                        Stella's is good, so is Armando's. We order "extra thick" crust at Stella's b/c we're not huge fans of the paper-thin (although it is well-executed there) crust.
                        We stay away from Stone Hearth Pizza in Belmont Ctr. - only "eh" and very expensive - would rather make my own


                        I'll third (or fourth or fifth) Uncommon Grounds. Lots of variety and you can get a decent cup of tea there, too.
                        Celebrity Pizza on Mt. Auburn in Watertown has good softserve - something that's hard to come by in these parts . . . .


                        8 Replies
                        1. re: gansu girl

                          I second Victor's! I was going to mention that. Love their blueberry pancakes, much better than Town Diner.

                          A few more nobody's mentioned in Watertown/Belmont:

                          1. Rancatore's ice cream in Belmont. Get the microsundae. Best hot fudge ever.
                          2. Rocco's in Watertown (corner of Dexter and Nichols Ave.) for excellent Italian sandwiches and other lunch items.
                          3. Grappa in Watertown, on Elm Street around the corner from Target. Not quite an ethnic gem, but good honest red sauce in a lovely, cozy little room with really nice owners.

                          1. re: Pia

                            I have mixed impressions of Qingdao Garden, but I join the consensus that the dumplings are to die for--a great value, alone reason enough to order delivery from Qingdao Garden.

                            Have you ever had the chicken lamejun from Eastern Lamejun? Thoughts?

                            1. re: aventinus

                              Thanks for the input. I ran out and tried the dumplings (frozen, pork and leek and a veggi one). You where right, they where great. I will add my thoughts on the other places when the topics come up.


                              1. re: aventinus

                                I don't love the chicken lamejun - they taste funky to me for some reason. Probably b/c I grew up on the meaty ones . . . . Now the garlic ones, THOSE I love.

                                1. re: gansu girl

                                  I love their spicy veggie pomegranate ones.

                                  1. re: Taralli

                                    Thx I will try to check those out.

                              2. re: Pia

                                Jeez, how did I forget Ranc's?? A staple of our summer (and fall and winter and spring . . . .)

                              3. re: gansu girl

                                Bagels by US on Mass Ave in Arlington has great Bagels.

                              4. Wow -- i am sensing either a lot of Chowhounds in the Belmont/Watertown area or maybe just Chowhounds travel to the burbs for good eats? We need to organize a local Chowhound get together at one of these eateries, i think....

                                1. Have you tried the Chinese at Ru Yee on the Watertown/Newton line? When I used to be over in the Watertown/Belmont area this was one of my staples. Fantastic every time I ate there!


                                  1. Doesn't anyone on this list cross the Square to the West side? There are a couple of good places to go, and they are as follows:
                                    1.) Mimi's Roast Beef & Seafood on Main St., the tacos are addictive. According to the head cook, he uses the barbecue sauce for the Roast Beef sandwiches in the taco mix. Best of all, they deliver to any part of Watertown.
                                    2.) The Spot on Main St., very good breakfast & lunch place. Probably not as cheap as the diners, but you do get your money's worth. Good: pancakes, croissant breakfast sandwiches, and fruit plates for breakfast. Luncheon Sandwiches are served on very good Miche bread, and they sell baked goods such as: rolls, muffins, breads, and croissants.
                                    In, "the Lake", a.k.a. the border of Newton & Watertown, there is:
                                    1.) D&A pizza, simple menu, but very good quality: pizza, subs, and salads.
                                    2.) For lunch there is Giuseppe's, which is right across the street from D&A, very inexpensive, a large specialty coldcut sub will cost you all of $4.50, and most of the subs are under $3.00.
                                    3.) Antoine's Bakery on Watertown Street, best pastries & Italian cookies in the area.
                                    4.) DePasquale Sausage Company, they make absolutely wonderful FRESH Italian Sausages, (my favorite is the Garlic & Cheese), and they carry other Italian Specialty food items. Get there early on Saturdays, because quantities of fresh sausages can become scarce by the afternoon.
                                    5.) West Street Grille & Tap on West Street, (just off Watertown Street), for a place that serves, "pub grub", the food is very good. Several flavors of chicken wings, great stuffed qhahogs, wonderful baked scallops, very good steak tips, and they make their Sausage & Pepper sandwiches with DePasquale sausages.
                                    In Waltham there is:
                                    1.) Tacqueria Mexico on Charles Street, (just off Moody Street), very good authentic inexpensive Mexican cuisine, (you can feed an entire family of 4 for $20.00!)
                                    2.) Bison County on Moody Street, great barbecue place, (not recommended for your vegetarian friends), where they serve both Texas Style barbecue, (traditional tomato based sauce), and Carolina Style barbecue, (mustard based sauce.) The brisket is so tender it melts in your mouth, and the nachos can feed at least 4 people.
                                    3.) Lizzie's Ice Cream on Moody Street, a total gem, all ice cream is made on premises, and it changes seasonally, (or when the owner comes up with another new flavor, whichever comes first.) The lines tend to be long in the summer, but the place is busy even in winter.
                                    Finally, the best place in Watertown to buy food is Russo & Sons, a.k.a. Russo's, on Pleasant Street. They carry a wonderful variety of fruits & vegetables including: asian fruits & vegetables, caribbean fruits & vegetables, sometimes they even have imported Italian & Spanish fruits & vegetables. They are also a great place for staples like bread, (there is a bakery in the back), milk, (they have a good local supplier), etc. They carry wonderful imported Italian coldcuts, and have ready made meals as well as the best salad bar in the area. They also carry DePasquale Sausages & Lizzie's Ice Cream.
                                    Hope this helps

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: crbear

                                      If we're extending into Waltham, there are a ton of options. First, I'll enthusiastically second Taqueria Mexico and Bison County, though not Lizzy's.

                                      For Italian, there's Il Capriccio and La Campania (both superb); some like Tuscan Grill (less enamored of this). New Mother India does an excellent Indian lunch buffet. Domenic's does first-rate Italian style subs and comfort food, though it's mainly take-out. Erawan of Siam does good Thai, Sushi Yasu does good sushi, and there's an outpost of Elephant Walk (Cambodian and French). Carl's, a take-out steak sub place, also has its fans around here, and there are plenty of good reports on this board about the steak tips at Sadie's.

                                      1. re: crbear

                                        Great list for the west side of town......another shout out for "The Spot". Great food/great people...slightly more expensive but worth it!

                                      2. Strip Ts in Watertown, Jose's in Fresh Pond Cambridge; special occasion Rialto.